Editor's note: Chris Wirthwein is senior director of 5MetaCom. He can be reached at cwirthwein@5metacom.com.

What’s the first and most important task for any B2B marketing team? For my money, it’s achieving differentiation. If true, then it makes sense that the most valued member of a product team is one who delivers ideas to achieve this.

Allow me to illustrate with an exercise I used to open my presentation at the Chicago Quirk’s Event earlier this year. To the group, I displayed a large image on the screen – a group of pencils: 20 or so black and a single yellow-orange one. The slide contained no words, just the photo. I then posed two questions. First: “Which pencil is best?” From the facial expressions, the crowd appeared baffled, confused, even a little annoyed. Of course they were! Question two let them off the hook: “Which pencil is different?” Instant makeover! Smiles, a few chuckles – and point made. Yes, all people understand, react to and are instantly attracted to what is different!

So, how can insights professionals become the most valued member of a B2B product team?

How important is differentiation in marketing? Listen to what others have to say on our subject:

“Humans are wired to detect irregular things.” John Hallward, insights professional and author of “Gimme! The Human Nature of Successful Marketing”

“We don’t pay attention to boring things.” John Medina, neuroscientist and author of “Brain Rules”

“Compete to be unique.” (Stop competing to be the best.) Michael Porter, Harvard University, creator of the Five Forces Model of competition

“The way to think about differentiation is not as an offspring of competition but as an escape from competition altogether.” Youngme Moon, Harvard University, author of “Different – Escaping the Competitive Herd”

And why is being different so important? Because when your product is perceived as being the same a...